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Time to stand with abortion survivors Andreas Wohlfahrt/Pexels

Time to stand with abortion survivors

Why is it still necessary to inform people that babies born alive after a botched abortion are often just left to die? Why is it not obvious that this is neither humane nor acceptable and should not be permitted by law? The lack of awareness of babies left to die after failed abortions is surprising to me and it makes me sick to have to write about it, but I will – for the babies. 

Let’s be clear; what we are talking about here is infanticide. When babies are born after a botched abortion and are literally left to die, that is not abortion, that’s infanticide.

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In May of this year grown adults in North Carolina were involved in a tense emotional debate on the floor of their state Senate over the state’s proposed born alive bill, the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act (SB 405). 

Survivors of botched abortions gave the North Carolina legislature intense personal testimony as to how they survived abortion, why they matter, why they have the right to exist, and why this bill matters.

The North Carolina state senate passed the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act in May and later that month and the bill went on to the North Carolina House of Representatives for a concurrence vote. It is expected to pass, but it is also expected that Democratic governor Roy Cooper will veto it, as he vetoed a similar born-alive bill in 2019.

What exactly is meant by a born-alive bill? In summary, it mandates that any baby born alive after a botched abortion must be treated with the same medical care as a child their age who was not meant to be killed, making it illegal to just abandon these babies to die. If an abortion provider does so, legal action would be taken against the guilty party. Simple enough, right? 

Melanie Israel, policy analyst at DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society at the Heritage Foundation, discussed the horrid disregard for infant survivors of abortion when writing about the federal Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act in a February 2019 Heritage Foundation article entitled, The Necessity of the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act. 

Israel quoted the Congressional committee report for the proposed Born-Alive Infants Protection Act (BAIPA), stating:

“The logical implications of Carhart and Farmer are both obvious and disturbing. Under the logic of these decisions, once a child is marked for abortion, it is wholly irrelevant whether that child emerges from the womb as a live baby. That child may still be treated as though he or she did not exist and would not have any rights under the law—no right to receive medical care, to be sustained in life, or to receive any care at all. And if a child who survives an abortion and is born alive would have no claim to the protections of the law, there would, then, be no basis upon which the government may prohibit an abortionist from completely delivering an infant before killing it or allowing it to die. The “right to abortion,’’ under this logic, means nothing less than the right to a dead baby, no matter where the killing takes place.’”

There are several reasons abortion supporters put forth for opposing born-alive bills, most are not based in reality.

Let’s start with a fact-check. For those who mistakenly believe the mother of the baby born after the botched abortion would face criminal charges with this born-alive legislation, the answer is: false. She would not, and this is likewise the case with the federal legislation. Additionally, in both the federal and North Carolina legislation the mom could pursue appropriate relief including monetary damages for physical/psychological harm, statutory damages, and punitive damages against the medical professionals who refuse to medically treat the baby.

Fact-check number two: There is an argument that born-alive bills are unnecessary because killing newborn babies is already illegal. This is false because while it may be illegal to kill a newborn, requiring that a doctor not neglect a baby who survives an abortion intended to kill the child just minutes earlier is another matter. These born-alive bills would not exist if the law were always followed and babies who survive abortion were given the medical care they deserve.

These claims often include the assertion that born-alive legislation is “unnecessary interference” between doctors and patients, and the legislation is just an attempt to limit abortion access. 

This fails another fact-check. Born-alive bills have nothing to do with abortion access, rather protecting those who survive when an abortion fails. The manipulation of the rhetoric and the attempts to veer from the topic at hand is a shallow attempt at skirting around the issue: which is that babies who survive abortions deserve medical care.

Tweet This: Born-alive bills are about protecting those who survive when an abortion fails. Babies who survive abortions deserve medical care.

Fact-check four. Some people have claimed that these laws are unnecessary because it never happens that babies survive abortions. False: This claim ignores the existence and testimony of adult abortion survivors such as Melissa Ohden, Josiah Presley, Claire Culwell and Gianna Jessen. Or the witness of nurse Jill Stanek, who testified in 2013 before the House Judiciary Committee about her experience working as an RN in the labor and delivery department at Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn, Illinois, and discovering babies being aborted alive and left to die in the department’s dirty utility closet.

Fact-check number five: it has been claimed that most voters oppose born-alive legislation. Once again this is false. Seventy-seven percent of U.S. voters support legislation ensuring that a baby who survives a botched abortion be given the same medical treatment as any other child born prematurely at the same age.

Now, addressing the elephant in the room: yes, there are many survivors of botched abortions, but how many were left to die that were never documented or reported? 

At this writing, whether a state reports its abortion data to the Centers for Disease Control is completely voluntary, not mandatory, and not all states do. 

So, given this, how many accounts have been lost to paperwork, coverups or just simply turning a blind eye? How many babies should have been helped, but weren’t, because it is not sufficiently required by law?  

The BAIPA report had babies documented as being born alive after an attempted abortion, by medical professionals, including:

• “Babies with Down syndrome between 21 and 22 weeks old;

• A baby thought to have spina bifida but born with an intact spine; and

• A healthy infant over 23 weeks old (at which point, had the mother wished, the hospital would have provided access to the neonatal intensive care unit and specialized care for the child).”

The following is an account of an innocent child who was left to die, devalued by medical staff and biological mother because she was not wanted. After reading this my heart absolutely broke for this child. 

“In another much-publicized case surrounding “Baby Hope,” a mother underwent the first half of a partial-birth abortion procedure and went into labor before she could undergo the second part of the procedure the next morning. She reported to an Ohio medical center and delivered a baby girl approximately 22 weeks old. Doctors did not believe the child would survive and instructed technician Shelly Lowe to take her body to the hospital’s lab. Seeing that the girl was still breathing, Lowe held the child for three hours until she died. Physicians never assessed baby Hope’s condition.” 

Currently over thirty states have laws providing at least some explicit protection for babies who survive abortions – this should be the case in every U.S. state.

Now more than ever, this North Carolina law and others like it must be in place as a potential influx in cases like these could be on the horizon with abortion activists’ continued push for expanded abortion access.

Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the NC Values Coalition, explains

“This bill is even more important now that our 20-week limit on abortion has been challenged in court by Planned Parenthood and the ACLU,” she said. “Because of that lawsuit abortions can be performed up to birth because the abortionist is allowed to determine when the baby is viable under the lower court’s ruling. Unless the lower court’s ruling is overturned, more babies will be born alive during abortions in North Carolina.”

Will SB 405 become law in North Carolina? Will abortion survivors there and elsewhere receive the medical care they deserve and that basic respect for humanity commands? It remains to be seen. For those who testified in favor of North Carolina’s Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act with personal accounts of survived abortion - and for all those who are not alive to testify - I choose to stand with them. 

We must act for the babies who are born alive, for their right to life, because they cannot speak for themselves. They deserve a chance to live just like we all do. These babies should not have had to die. 

Brittany Summers

29-year-old book and cat lover. Helping people tell their stories is my passion.